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San Antonio Hopelchén

Travelers in western Yucatan often head south from Uxmal and the Puuc region along Highway 261 to visit the famous caves of Bolonchen and Xtacumbilxunan, the "Chenés-style" Maya sites of Campeche, such as Hochob, Dzibitún and Edzná, as well as the fortified colonial town of Campeche itself. The main town along this route is Hopelchén, in Maya: "Where there are Five Wells."

Hopelchén's principal feature is its beautifully maintained colonial mission of San Antonio. Founded on a former Maya temple platform beside the village plaza, this classic late 17th century Yucatecan church is distinguished by its austere, geometric stone facade topped by sinuous baroque belfries or espadañas.


The Retablo Mayor

The main attraction inside the church is its collection of colonial altarpieces, of which the most impressive is the retablo mayor, which rests in the apse, the oldest part of the church, probably dating from the late 1500s. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, this altarpiece has recently been restored. It is framed in classic Yucatan style by spiral columns with foliated relief carving, in this case double columns.

The retablo is gilded with red and green accents. As with most other Yucatecan 18th century retablos, sculpted wooden reliefs took precedence over paintings. Unfortunately these have been supplanted by sentimental modern paintings that illustrate familiar scenes from the life of the Virgin.